The Other I

March 29, 2017

The breath of life

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 8:20 pm

One of the best things about a good marriage, I suspect, is a couple’s differences.  My husband, Peter, and I are good at different things, and by definition close to helpless in others.  Discovering this, of course, does not come without cost.  It means learning to listen to another point of view that often feels like a direct contradiction of our own and taking it seriously.

Peter, for instance, is a born pessimist, I a born optimist.  Once I learned to take his pessimism seriously, I saw the benefit of preparing for possible undesirable outcomes.  I learned, as Peter put it, that the difference between an emergency and an inconvenience is often a back-up.  So we have savings I would not have thought useful.

Or when Peter would come up with a brilliant idea, followed with the inevitable statement it would be impossible for us ever to implement, the optimist in me began to see the possibilities.  So we figured out how to buy a house.

In the kitchen, we both cook, but very differently.  I am practical.  I can put a meal on the table in 30 minutes.  Peter, on the other hand, has taste buds far more sensitive to mine.  He denies this, but he is really a gourmet cook who has never used recipes as rules but merely as suggestions.  And often makes it up after looking to see what’s on the shelves or growing in the garden.  He inevitably announces the result is “a disaster,” but I cannot remember a single time in the last 44 years that it has been inedible.

Many of our skills are a reversal of those that are typically identified with males and females.  I am good at mathematics and have some mechanical skills, albeit untrained.  Peter, on the other hand, has a grasp of literature and social structures, and interestingly, some computer skills, that far outstrip mine.

So we have learned to ask each other for help.

Two days ago, Peter said the lawn mower would not start.  It looked either as if the start button on the mower wasn’t working or that the battery wasn’t recharging and had reached the end of its life.  We decided the best choice was to order a new battery, rather than a new mower.  The battery came yesterday, and after recharging it, he put it into the mower.  It still wouldn’t start.  So he called me, really just to confirm that we were going to have to buy a new mower after all.

I don’t mow the lawn, and I wasn’t familiar with the machine.  But I took out the battery, looked at it, and wondered if the problem was not with the battery after all but with the battery charger.  Before trying to decide if we could figure out if this was the problem, I noticed that a few very small scraps of grass cuttings had slipped into the battery cage.  “Oh,” I said, “I wonder if this is the problem.”  “No,” Peter assured me.  “We’ve had this mower for eight years and that’s never happened.”  “Okay,” I said, blowing at the offending bits of green and displacing them into my face.  “I’m sure you’re right and it won’t work, but let’s give it a try – there’s no-…”

I hadn’t finished stating my expectation of failure when Peter pushed on the starter lever.  The mower started.

“Ah!” said Peter, “you are the breath of life!”

Well, I must confess it was more like a stroke of luck than the breath of life.

But it’s true:  he couldn’t have done it without me.

Love and life are made up of a lot of little things, aren’t they?  even little bits of grass.


  1. This is even more evident and inevitable in arranged marriages like we had in our times, Does it also reduce maladjustment with the society at large? Just a thought. Thanks.


    Comment by tskraghu — March 30, 2017 @ 2:26 am | Reply

    • I share your question about arranged marriages. It seems to me that many times our parents might make a better choice for their sons and daughters than we can make for ourselves. But I wonder if that is changing. Cultural changes are happening so fast and so broadly that the parental generation may be more out of touch with the needs, hope, strengths and potential of their children than in the past. As you say, just a thought. But you are no doubt closer to examples that will inform your views that I am. Over here what tends to hit the pages are stories of honor killings or arranged marriages that are clearly imposed on the participants. And the Asians I know personally are emphatically not into arranging the marriages of their children.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by theotheri — March 31, 2017 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

      • These days the way it seems to work is: the parents identify alliances and hand the matters over to the boy and the girl. If they give the nod, then it is ‘arranged.’ No parent would want to take the onus of taking a call all by himself/herself. And as u say these kids are a lot smarter knowing what’s good for them.


        Comment by tskraghu — March 31, 2017 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  2. Your marriage sounds almost identical to mine. I’ve only been married 20 years, but like your husband, I am incompetent as a handy engineer about the house, and I cannot figure out till this day how to put two pieces of IKEA furniture together, with or without diagram. But my wife is brilliant at this. She looks at wooden pieces, she sees a chair. I see… wooden pieces. She’s also very smart about finance – she does our taxes. But any problem on the computer, the network, the printer – that’s all me. I mow the lawn and shovel the snow. I’m also the better “mother” with the kids. I’m the slow, experimental cook, while she can’t be bothered with thinking about food – “she eats to live, while I live to eat”, as she puts it. I’m the idealist start up guy, she’s the bank auditor. So yes, contrasts help!


    Comment by psriblog — March 31, 2017 @ 5:25 am | Reply

  3. What a surprising response to this post! Your IKEA example is practically identical to what goes on in our family. We don’t even discuss it anymore. If a box is delivered, I’m the one to deal with it. I wonder what other differences we would discover we have in common. It does make for a much more interesting relationship, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t trade my male, protestant-reared, English husband in for a female, Catholic-reared, American for a million dollars.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by theotheri — March 31, 2017 @ 3:03 pm | Reply

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